New garbage collection schedule hits street kids

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, April 5:

Though the new schedule for garbage collection in five municipalities of the Valley may have kept the city streets clean, it has directly affected the living of the city’s ragpickers who used to make a living out of the garbage.

Most of the street children in Kathmandu used to eke out a living by collecting and selling reusable materials from the streets. Wandering on the streets for five to six hours a day and collecting 15 to 16 kg of reusable materials, they used to make up to Rs 200 to Rs 300 a day on an average.

Dinesh Tamang and his friends who used to collect plastics within the periphery of New Road nowadays have a lot of leisure time during the day. They go to collect plastics, which they call maal, only after 7pm as soon as the municipality’s truck comes to pick up garbage. “We can hardly collect 5 kg plastics as we have to collect them in the night.”

Dipak Thapa, 14, who hails from Dhading, not only used to make his living out of ragpicking, but also used to help his family from the surplus. He said, “Last time when I visited my family, I had given Rs 4,000. But, this time, there is no chance.”

According to a UN report, there are around 30,000 street children in Nepal.

Biso Bajracharya, president of Sath Sath, an NGO, said, “They cannot be shifted to any other occupation all of a sudden. Alternative training takes time for them to adjust to it.” He added that unemployment might push them to criminal activities. He said they can be employed within the garbage trucks as an alternative where they could collect the reusable. He said, “Their contribution need to be recognised and should be given option to make it on their own.”

Rajesh Manandhar, chief of KMC’s Environment Department, said the KMC has given priority to waste management and keep the streets clean.

Conceding that the new schedule might have some drawbacks, he said, “If we start separating reusable materials on the streets, the cost of recycling becomes high and it also creates nuisance on the streets. Instead, we need to develop the habit of separating reusable materials at the household level so that the street children can go door to door to collect them.”